#87: GIANT SQUIDS

Though the vast majority of monsters on this list are products of fiction, a few actually walk (or in this case swim) the earth.  Giant squids are one of the biggest and amazing predators, but despite our most advanced equipment and millions of people touching our great oceans, so little is known about these amazing beasts.

Hundreds of years ago when sailing the sea was the most efficient method of world travel, tales of sea monsters abounded.  Early maps of the world's oceans even showed bizarre creatures coming out of the water, hoping to feast on hapless sailors.  One of the more feared sea creatures was The Kraken.

To see pictures like the ones above, you know some artistic license was obviously used, but you have to wonder what incident happened to prompt these tales.  Somebody obviously saw a giant squid somewhere, and they were pretty shaken up.

Jules Verne was so inspired by a report of a giant squid attacking a French navy ship that he used a similar incident in his classic 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA.

A giant squid caught by Rev. Moses Harvey in 1874 helped bring some science to the myth.  In 1880 the first scientific description of the animal was made, forever bringing it out of the world of fiction.

It's amazing that so little is still known about these animals.  A living specimen has never been caught, and only 3 dead specimens have ever been recovered in America.  Scientists figure, though that these giant squids can get up to 60 feet long and weigh as much as a ton.  When you realize that their eyes can be as big as a volleyball (the largest eyes of any animal in existence), it's clear how monstrous they really are.

MONSTER FACTS

Beaks of giant squids have been found in the stomachs of sperm whales.

In October 1966, two lighthouse keepers at Danger Point, South Africa, observed a baby southern right whale under attack from a giant squid. For an hour and a half the monster clung to the whale trying to drown it as the whale's mother watched helplessly. "The little whale could stay down for 10 to 12 minutes, then come up. It would just have enough time to spout - only two or three seconds - and then down again." The squid finally won and the baby whale was never seen again. (from the Museum of Unnatural History)

How big can a squid get? Estimates based on damaged carcasses range up to one hundred feet. One story, though, suggests they might get even larger. One night during World War II a British Admiralty trawler was lying off the Maldive Islands in the Indian Ocean. One of the crew, A. G. Starkey, was up on deck, alone, fishing, when he saw something in the water.

"As I gazed, fascinated, a circle of green light glowed in my area of illumination. This green unwinking orb I suddenly realized was an eye. The surface of the water undulated with some strange disturbance. Gradually I realized that I was gazing at almost point-black range at a huge squid." 

Starkey walked the length the of the ship finding the tail at one end and the tentacles at the other. The ship was over one hundred and seventy five feet long.

 

MULTIMEDIA

SEE A 9 FOOT SPECIMEN THAT WASHED UP OFF THE COAST OF MAINE


WEBSITES

A GIANT SQUID ONLINE EXHIBIT AT THE SMITHSONIAN 

THE MUSEUM OF UNNATURAL HISTORY LOOKS AT THE KRAKEN


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